Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Doctor Who S34 E6 "The Caretaker"

Go To

Doctor Who recap index
Twelfth Doctor Era
Series 8: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | CS
<<< 2013 Specials | Series 9 >>>

The Caretaker
Trust him — he's the caretaker.
Click here to see the Radio Times magazine poster for this episode:
Written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat
Directed by Paul Murphy
Air date: 27 September 2014

"So, if anybody needs me just, you know, give me a shout. I’ll be in the storeroom just getting the lie of the land. Yes, nobody’s taking any notice at all. Absolutely good news because it means I must be coming across just as an absolutely boring human being like you. Deep cover, deep cover."
The Doctor

The one where the Doctor parks the TARDIS in a shed-like room near Coal Hill school. Again.

Clara Oswald is a woman of two lives. She's an English teacher at a secondary school in Shoreditch and also Danny Pink's girlfriend. She's also the Doctor's companion, professional intergalactic traveler, self-admitted "carer"/walking external conscience and question-asker, who has to zip off every now and again for fun adventures with Fish People, or rather less fun adventures where she almost dies in the desert.

Anyway, all that's fine, and she can handle it; honestly she can, as long as nobody ever actually meets. The Doctor can stay in his box, and Danny can stay in the normal world with normal people, and that's all going to stay fine. Although, the Doctor's had to cancel their weekly trip this time — he's hiding, somewhere he won't tell her, going into deep cover. Clara's not entirely sure he can do deep cover, but, never mind — it gives her more time to work on things with Danny, who's starting to catch on to Clara's sudden tans, seaweedy moistness or changes of clothing.

Then "John Smith" shows up at Coal Hill, introducing himself to the staff. He's the caretaker now (caretakers are cool) and you can just call him "the Doctor".

He's got a different jacket on, though, so that's deep cover.

Clara promptly goes into panic mode, but by then an adventure's already happening — the Doctor's hunting a Skovox Blitzer, an alien robot superweapon packing enough heat to take down the planet. Sure, they can save the world, but can Clara save her secrets? What's gonna happen if Danny Pink finds out?


  • All Part of the Show: Clara tries this by telling Danny the Skovox Blitzer getting sucked into the Vortex was for the upcoming school play. Not only does it not work, Danny takes it as an insult to his intelligence.
  • Almighty Janitor: The Doctor is a literal one, as he's undercover as the school's caretaker.
  • Answers to the Name of God: Missy has this done on her behalf; when the PCSO looks out the window in the Promised Land and exclaims "My God!", Missy's assistant Seb sees her walk past and says she's "a little busy at the moment".
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Danny's reaction to the Doctor upon hearing that he's a Time Lord. He deliberately provokes the Doctor's anger by addressing him as a superior officer, telling Clara that how the Doctor was at that moment was who he truly was.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The poor PCSO killed by the Skovox Blitzer ends up in the Promised Land. Missy is a bit busy, so her assistant aids in the transition this time.
  • Badass Fingersnap: Played for laughs as the Doctor and Clara, who both have acquired the ability to open and close the TARDIS' doors by snapping their fingers, find themselves briefly having a "fingersnap duel" over this.
  • Badass Normal: Danny manages to draw the Skovox Blitzer's fire by doing an incredibly impressive rolling jump over it, giving the Doctor enough time to deactivate it.
  • Beneath the Mask: Clara lends Danny the invisibility watch so he can be assured she doesn't act differently around him. However, Danny soon turns off the watch because he realises the Doctor has worked out he's there; instead he provokes the Doctor into revealing his "officer" face.
  • Big Bad: The Skovox Blitzer, being the reason the Doctor is present at the school and nearly responsible for the deaths of everyone there.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": The Doctor, when Danny begins flippantly mocking him.
  • Blatant Lies: Clara telling Danny the Skovox Blitzer being sucked into the Time Vortex was for a play.
  • Breather Episode: This one has a lot more humor than the two previous episodes. On the other hand, it makes some major changes to the status quo.
  • Brick Joke: The Doctor finally gets the position of Coal Hill School's caretaker, 26 years after the headmaster assumed that the Seventh Doctor was at the school to apply for it.
  • Calling Your Attacks: The Skovox Blitzer calls out everything it does, not just its attacks.
    "Five-stop-intruder. Five-stop-intruder. Problem. Solution: Destroy."
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: Double subverted. The Doctor admonishes Courtney for ignoring his "Keep Out" sign. She points out that it actually reads "GO AWAY HUMANS", which, while still pertinent, is a bit harder to take seriously.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Compared to Missy's more colourful introductions, her assistant has the PCSO at a desk in an endless hallway full of doors.
  • Changed My Jumper: The Trope Namer parodies this when he acts surprised that Clara sees through his caretaker "disguise". All he did was put on a different jacket over his normal outfit.
  • Cold Open: The episode opens with the Doctor and Clara chained up on a desert planet for some reason.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • When Clara exasperatedly says that "human beings are not otters" to refute the Doctor's argument about how he can blend in to human society, the Doctor replies, "exactly, it'll be even easier". The grin at the end of this sentence shows that he's doing this intentionally.
    • Clara drops a couple hints about her "new boyfriend" and his resemblance to a certain time traveler, meaning Orson from "Listen". The Doctor, with characteristic narcissism, assumes she's talking about another teacher who happens to look a bit like the Eleventh Doctor.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Doctor working at a school under the name John Smith? Now where have we seen this before?
    • The Doctor has worked as a caretaker before.
    • During a trip to Coal Hill in 1963, the Dalek-controlled headmaster assumes that the Doctor is there to apply for the job of caretaker.
    • Clara refers to Colonel Orson Pink the time traveller.
    • A banner at Coal Hill refers to "A Spirit of Adventure" — you can see the quote that refers to on the main page (from "The Sensorites", for what it's worth).
    • In the promo image, a keen eye can make out Ian Chesterton's name on the school's plaque.
    • Headmaster Coburn is mentioned.
    • The Doctor mentions the school and surrounding area being a hotbed of artron energy, previously established as being associated with the TARDIS' energy source. Gee, any wonder why?.
    • The Doctor nicknaming a companion's boyfriend an insult isn't a new habit. Twelve calling Danny "PE" beckons back to the days Nine called Mickey Smith, boyfriend of his then-companion Rose Tyler, "Mickey the Idiot" and/or "Ricky".
    • Besides Mickey, another male companion whose name the Doctor's brain just refused to retain was Coal Hill's Chairman of the Governors; Ian.
    • The Doctor says to Clara, referring to Danny, "Shut him up, shut him down. Up or down, it doesn't matter to me," which sounds suspiciously similar to Two's dialogue in "The Power of the Daleks":
      Second Doctor: I want them broken up, or melted down. Up or down, I don't care which!
    • In one scene, Clara can be seen standing in front of a world map, with the U.S. state of Alaska clearly visible in the center of the shot. One of her echoes served on the starship Alaska.
    • The Doctor's dislike of being saluted.
  • Cringe Comedy: Clara's increasingly absurd attempts to keep the two parts of her life separate, reaching its peak when she tries to convince her boyfriend that the alien death robot that nearly killed him was part of a rehearsal for a "surprise play".
  • Crusty Caretaker: "John Smith" doesn't do a lot of caretaker work, but he otherwise fits the bill with his rudeness. Plus he's Scottish! In the Extra, Capaldi spends some time pointing out that the Doctor somewhat likes the idea of being a caretaker, in the sense that it's a chance to impress people with his Mr. Fixit skills.
  • Dead All Along: The policeman is musing how his experience was just like science fiction when he suddenly wonders how he managed to escape the Skovox Blitzer.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: The Skovox Blitzer's first and only on-screen victim gets a pretty gruesome one; severed from the arm with charred smoking flesh and bones jutting out.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The Doctor is in fine form, constantly taking shots at Danny, or "P.E.", and how he's not going to bother "retaining" that he's actually a maths teacher.
    • Danny is no slouch in that department either, "sir". He can match the Doctor's "aristocratic attitude" snark for snark, "SIR!"
    • Courtney also counts; constantly taunting Clara with remarks and notes on windows that "Ozzie loves the squaddie".
    • Clara.
      The Doctor: I used to have a teacher exactly like you.
      Clara: Well you still do, pay attention.
  • Distaff Counterpart: This is the first episode to have a character directly point out that Clara is becoming more like the Doctor. This continues as a background character arc for the remainder of Clara's time on the series.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Played for drama in the Danny/Doctor Snark-to-Snark Combat because Danny hates military officers and the Doctor hates being regarded as one, and both because of their traumatic experiences in a war.
  • Doppelgänger Dating: Invoked: the Doctor assumes Clara is doing this with Adrian (who looks like his previous incarnation).
  • Dressing as the Enemy: When his temporal mines fail, the Doctor rigs up a device that makes him appear as another of the Skovox Blitzer's model, intended to be his superior officer. He then orders it to deactivate.
  • Elopement: Danny compares Clara running off with the Doctor to this because he's jealous.
  • Eye Am Watching You: A suspicious Clara does this when the Doctor cancels their adventure and says he's going under deep cover. Naturally, she's right when the new caretaker shows up.
  • Eye Take: Clara delivers a few spectacular examples of this, such as when new caretaker Mr. Smith introduces himself, and later (combined with a bit of slapstick) when Clara spies the Doctor while trying to water a plant).
  • False Reassurance:
    • "Of course we won't starve! The sand piranhas will get us long before that."
    • Later:
      Danny: You're using her like a decoy!
      The Doctor: No! Not like a decoy, ''as'' a decoy!
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Danny describes the Doctor (over his strong objections) as "an officer". At the climax of the episode the Doctor disarms the Skovox Blitzer by impersonating its superior officer, a Skovox Artificer.
    • Danny asks Clara to tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far. This happens in the very next episode.
  • The Four Loves:
    Danny: Do you love him?
    Clara: No.
    Danny: Really had enough of the lies...
    Clara: Not in that way.
    Danny: What other way is there?
  • Freudian Slip: "Never lose your temper in the middle of a door sign."
  • Gadget Watch: The Doctor builds an invisibility watch as part of his initial plan to get rid of the Skovox Blitzer.
  • The Glomp: Clara glomps Danny after he saves the day.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • When Danny finds out that his girlfriend is off seeing "wonders" with an aristocratic former officer, he is seething with jealousy. He even refers to her adventures as "eloping" as if she were cheating on him.
    • The Doctor's jealousy regarding Clara's new boyfriend is undisguised throughout the episode, and only gets worse when he discovers that she isn't actually dating a teacher who happens to superficially resemble his previous incarnation.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Danny asks Clara directly if she loves the Doctor. Her answer is not convincing to him.
  • Hey, That's My Line!: The Doctor snaps his fingers to open the TARDIS doors, as he's been doing since the Library... and Clara snaps her own fingers to close them again, in just the same manner.
  • Identical Stranger: Downplayed. Adrian isn't perfectly identical to Matt Smith, but he has a very similar look to the Eleventh Doctor, right down to the hair and bowtie.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: One of the few occasions in which this is averted, with Clara stating outright that she loves Danny, but also admitting to Danny that she loves the Doctor, too, just "not in that way".
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: For a supposedly advanced killing machine, the Skovox Blitzer takes the phrase "spray n' pray" to a great extreme. The only person he manages to shoot, at least on-screen, is a stationary police officer.
  • Informed Ability: The Skovox Blitzer is described as having enough firepower to destroy a planet. In practice, it can't even hit Clara from a short distance.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Doctor's wrist gadget renders him invisible. However, when Danny tries it, the Doctor can tell he's there due to picking up the slight disturbance in the light around him.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: The Doctor undergoes one so he can hide some temporal mines at the school and lure the Skovox Blitzer there to get rid of him. It's not a completely straight example, as he actually got the job first, but he still had to remove the previous caretaker.
  • Jerkass:
    • The Doctor is amazingly rude to Danny when he finds out he's a soldier, calling him "PE", refusing to believe he's a math teacher, and nearly foaming at the mouth when Danny dares to get a word in edgewise.
    • Danny is extremely rude when he finds out that the Doctor is a Time Lord, as if he were some Upper-Class Twit and deliberately antagonizes him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Danny eventually realizes the Doctor's just being protective of Clara. Likewise, the Doctor grudgingly gives Danny some credit for saving the world at the end.
    The Doctor: It's a start.
  • Jumped at the Call:
    • Courtney wants into the TARDIS as soon as she finds out that it's not really a police box.
    • For all his negativity towards the Doctor, it's Danny who first notices that the Doctor is trying to get hold of Clara as the Skovox Blitzer incident approaches its climax, and he's willing to help, even if the Doctor rebuffs him on this. Clara, of course, jumps in with both feet.
  • Killer Robot: The Skovox Blitzer kills everything it sees.
  • Kirk's Rock: During the opening montage, the Doctor and Clara are seen tied to pillars with a rock formation in the background that looks almost identical to Vasquez Rocks.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Clara knows her status as Morality Pet. She tells the Doctor that the alternative to living without her is developing his own conscience.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...
    Clara: What do you think? Say something.
    Danny: So, there's an alien, that used to look like Adrian. Then he turned into a Scottish caretaker and every now and then, when I'm not looking, you elope with him.
  • Left Your Lifesaver Behind: Our heroes are chained up in the desert on an alien world to be eaten by sand piranhas, and can't escape because Clara left the vibro-cutters in her other jacket back on Earth.
  • Living a Double Life: Clara must come to terms with the pitfalls of having a normal life as a teacher intertwined with the mendacities that come with being the Doctor's companion.
  • Love Confession: Clara blurts out that she loves Danny. Given how he reacts, this may be the first time she says this with regard to him (and possibly admits it to herself).
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Clara's attempts to juggle her romance with her secret adventures is not going well, even before the Doctor turns up at her school.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Clara: Is there an alien in this school?
    The Doctor: Yes. Me!
  • Meaningful Echo: Clara echoes River Song's "I hate you!" The Doctor assures her that's a perfectly normal reaction to him.
  • Mirror Character:
    • Danny and the Doctor are very alike. Both have been soldiers and both have tried to become better men. Because of this, Danny understands the Doctor far more than the Doctor would like to admit. In addition, the two also share in common their affection and concern for Clara, with both mutually concerned about the influence the other might have on her.
    • Clara and Twelve. In this episode, both she and Danny do plenty of (understandable) complaining about his bossy attitude, but once the Killer Robot returns and the action begins, she acts much the same way while busy distracting the monster. Danny ends up proving himself more useful than either of them expected...
    • Clara's slow progression to becoming a Distaff Counterpart to the Doctor continues as she once again demonstrates the ability to open and close the TARDIS' doors with a snap of her fingers.
    • Twelve and Courtney — she's a "disruptive" influence; the Doctor is absolutely thrilled to find someone who is an equally bad influence.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: When Danny realizes the Skovox Blitzer is from outer space, he initially assumes Clara and the Doctor are both aliens (he's right in the latter case) and that the Doctor is Clara's father.
  • Mr. Smith: The Doctor uses his traditional alias, although, for the first time on-screen, he actually combines it with "The Doctor" (as opposed to "Dr. John Smith", which he'd used occasionally).
  • Mythology Gag:
    • At this point in Twelve's life, the humans he's most familiar with are a pair of teachers and a troublesome young student. The Doctor's very first companions were exactly this.
    • The tendency of the Doctor and his companion to do a lot of running down corridors from people shooting at them is lampshaded in a Noodle Incident that only consists of that.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Skovox Blitzer. Knowing the history of London and the Blitz heightens the effect.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Danny removing several temporal mines messes up the Doctor's plan royally.
    • The Doctor says the Skovox Blitzer is hanging around the school because of all the "artron emissions" that have gathered there over the years, implicitly as a result of the Doctor's visits.
  • The Nicknamer: The Doctor dubs Danny Pink "P.E." in this episode as a sign of contempt. ("P.E." stands for "physical education", as in the Doctor thinks Danny teaches phys-ed because he can't or won't accept the notion of an ex-soldier being a maths teacher).
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Doctor mentions having sulked among otters for a month after a fight with River Song.
    • Clara's trips with the Doctor at the start of the episode are a series of these: chained up to die on a desert planet, Fish People, being shot at...
    • Danny mentions Clara turning up for a date once wearing a space helmet.
    • Subverted when the Doctor corrects Clara on Jane Austen in front of her students. Clara thinks its because he had some grand adventure with her, but that's not the case; He's simply read the biography on the back of the book.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Clara races off after class to find out what the Doctor is up to, but gets repeatedly waylaid by people asking things she'd normally be upset about. She agrees to everything they say just to get past.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: The Doctor and Clara somehow managed to escape the sand piranhas without the vibro-cutters.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Clara's expression turns into silent panic when the faculty meets the new caretaker.
    • Clara has a brief moment of this when the Doctor informs her that there are aliens — other than himself — at the school.
    • The Doctor's reaction when he realizes the time mines aren't working due to Danny removing some.
    • Clara's reaction as her attempt to pass off the Doctor's actions as a school play collapses.
    • Played for Laughs when Clara returns from an adventure involving a lot of running from hostile aliens, only to find a track-suited Pink outside ready to go jogging with her.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: The Doctor revealing that he knows about Clara's boyfriend, saying that he reminds him of a "young, dashing time-traveller": Clara thinks he's talking about Danny and Orson Pink; the Doctor is actually talking about Adrian and the Eleventh Doctor.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Doctor thinks that putting on a different coat qualifies as "deep cover".
  • Police Are Useless: A Policeman is easily and quickly killed by the Blitzer.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • The Doctor mistakes Clara's colleague, Adrian, for her boyfriend. Adrian, who has a square jaw, quiffy sidecombed hair, and a bowtie. He's flattered, of course.
    • He also sounds Courtney out as a possible substitute for Clara, and even gives her a trial trip in the TARDIS.
  • Robo Speak: Everything the Skovox Blitzer says.
    "Nine-stop-query rescan. Target reacquired. Success-success."
  • Robotic Psychopath: The Skovox Blitzer is programmed to think that the answer for almost every problem is to destroy the source/obstruction and apparently had been designed to not differentiate between enemy combatants and unarmed civilians despite any claims from the target of being friendly and harmless. If ordered to shut down without the necessary final input code, it will self-destruct and destroy the planet that it is on.
  • Secret Message Wink: After the Doctor introduces himself to the teachers as John Smith, the new caretaker, he adds, "most people just call me the Doctor," and winks at Clara, the only one who knows his real identity. Later, Danny asks Clara if she saw the new caretaker wink at her; she dismisses the thought, saying it was probably just a "general welcoming wink" meant for everyone in the room.
  • Secret Test of Character: While the Doctor really doesn't like Danny, a lot of his jerkish behavior is an attempt to find out if he's good enough for Clara. Danny spots this fairly early (probably around when he thought the Doctor was her dad) and calls him on it at the end, at which point the Doctor confirms it.
  • See the Invisible: The Doctor knew Danny was in the TARDIS; one of his special Time Lord senses is sensitivity to active cloaking devices (at least of the light wave-based type Danny was using).
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: When the Doctor fails to properly authenticate his shutdown order, the Skovox Blitzer activates a self-destruct sequence. Danny distracts the Skovox Blitzer long enough for the Doctor to correct the error.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Two examples in rapid succession.
    Clara: You're being mysterious, and do you know what means?
    Doctor: I'm a man of mystery.
    Doctor: I'll see you when I see you.
    Clara: When's that?
    Doctor: When I see you.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The PCSO's shoulder number begins with "SO"... as did the ones in The Bill.
    • Clara's line that the Doctor is "a clever man making the mistake common to clever people of assuming that everyone else is stupid" is from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, written by former Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams.
    • The Doctor whistles Pink Floyd (specifically, the recurring four-note arpeggio motif from The Wall, best known for its use in the "we don't need no education" line in "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II").
    • Danny calls the Doctor Clara's space dad.
    • Clara covers up her shenanigans with the Doctor by telling Danny they're rehearsing for a play.
    • When Clara shows Danny the invisibility watch, Danny's response is to ask why it isn't a ring.
    • The head of the Skovox Blitzer bears a striking resemblance to that of the turians from the Mass Effect universe. A picture of the two side-by-side for comparison.
    • An alien version of Kirk's Rock can be seen in the background of the opening scene.
    • Clara is teaching her students about Pride and Prejudice. In late 2013, Jenna Coleman co-starred in the miniseries Death Comes to Pemberley, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice.
  • Spanner in the Works: Danny sticks around after-hours while the Doctor is trying to send the Skovox Blitzer a few billion years into the future, finding some of his temporal mines. This disrupts the temporal field and instead sends the Skovox Blitzer forward one day, in the middle of a parent-teacher conference, and renders the mines unusable because the Skovox Blitzer has adapted.
  • Tempting Fate: Clara promises Danny that the next few days will be all about him. Then the Doctor shows up as the school's caretaker.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The Doctor pitches the deactivated Skovox Blitzer out the TARDIS door and into space.
  • Title Drop: The Doctor goes undercover as a caretaker at Coal Hill School.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • Apart from a couple shots of the Skovox Blitzer, every scene in the trailers was taken from the first five minutes of the episode. Except for one scene that, for some reason, is actually taken from "Listen".
    • The voice of the Skovox Blitzer also sounds erratic in the trailer, unlike its deep and consistent modulated voice in the story.
  • The Triple: "Every time I see you, you're in a rush. In a state. In a space helmet, one time..."
  • Twerp Sweating: The interaction between Danny and the Doctor, albeit of a particularly unpleasant variety.
  • The Unmasking: Danny learns the truth about Clara's relations with the Doctor and his TARDIS. Courtney learns of the Doctor as well.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Courtney first sees space from inside the TARDIS, she dashes back inside and can be heard throwing up.
  • We Were Rehearsing a Play: Clara tries this excuse when Danny catches her and the Doctor red-handed fighting the Skovox Blitzer. He doesn't believe it for a moment.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Danny does this to both Clara and the Doctor; Clara for lying to him and trying to pass off the incident with the killer alien robot as a "school play", and the Doctor for seemingly treating the whole thing casually and endangering Clara.
    • The Doctor does this to Danny for disabling his trap and thereby putting everyone on Earth in greater danger.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Subverted when the Doctor takes Courtney out into space to show her galactic wonders. Instead, she throws up.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Clara goes on adventures with the Doctor and is back a moment later, causing trouble for her dates with Danny.
  • You Are What You Hate: Danny posits that the reason the Doctor doesn't like him is because they're both soldiers; Danny's a grunt while the Doctor is an officer. That being said, Danny seems to assume that the Doctor was an "armchair general" type rather than the kind of person who led from the front.
  • You're Not My Type: Clara says that adorkable bowtie-wearing Adrian is not her type — cue Reaction Shot from the Doctor.